Section III-13

Ground Ladder Operations


Purpose:  To establish guidelines for the deployment of ground ladders during fire operations.


Scope:   Guidelines shall be followed any time ground ladder operations are implemented for the use of life threatening situations, when access to a structure is necessary, and/or when a ladder is utilized during ventilation operations.



There are three key reasons for laddering a building during firefighting operations:

  1. Life

·        Victim safety:  rescue

·        Firefighter safety:  provide rescue access and means of emergency egress when conventional exits are compromised by fire extension or heat build-up


  1. Access

·        Entry to structure

·        Access to roof, decks, porches, etc.


  1. Ventilation

·        Must ladder every occupied floor or floor where operating

·        Use of ladder to ventilate a window


Portable (Ground) Ladders


The Three Star Fire Department utilizes various types of ladders for different applications:  straight ladders, extension ladders, folding “attic” or “scissor” ladders, and roof ladders.  Each ladder has its overall length marked on the rail.  In our inventory we carry a 10’ folding ladder on BT-3; a 10’ folding ladder, 14’ roof ladder, and a 35’ extension ladder on E-32; and a 14’ wall ladder and 24’ extension ladder on E-31.


Climbing angle for a ground ladder is approximately 65 to 75 degrees.  This should provide the firefighter with the maximum strength and stability.  An angle steeper than 75 degrees increases the likelihood of the firefighter falling from the ladder and sustaining injuries.  Ladders angled less than 65 degrees require a reduction in the maximum load placed on the ladder.


A simple formula used to determine proper ladder angle is to place the base of the ladder at a distance from the object equal to ¼ the total working length of the ladder.  The working length is defined as the distance from the base of the ladder to the top of its support.


Each and every Three Star Fire Department ground ladder will be inspected annually.


Ladder Placement


Proper placement of the tip of the ladder provides for easier and safer mounting and dismounting of the ladder and it allows the firefighter to maintain balance by providing a handhold.



In order to prevent slippage of the butt or movement of the tip of a raised ladder, it is important that the ladder be properly supported, or footed, by a firefighter.


When the portable ladder has been raised and placed into position, the assigned firefighter will climb on the balls of his/her feet near the arch.  The underside of rails or beams is grasped with the hands or the firefighter may grasp the rungs.  Climbing is done in a rhythmic and smooth manner, never jerky or bouncy.  If a tool is being carried up by the firefighter, then it must be balanced in one hand while the other hand is used to grasp the rails so as to never loose contact with them.


During cold weather it is essential to be alert to ice forming on the ladder and on the ground, making climbing and stability significantly more hazardous.


If work is to be performed from a portable ladder, then the firefighter should use either a leg lock or a life belt for maximum stability and safety.


When climbing, firefighters should visually inspect the ladder as they ascend.  This will help ensure that the locks (or “dogs”) are properly deployed and will help identify any other potential problems or defects.


When raising or lowering portable ladders (regardless of whether at a fire scene or on the training ground), it is essential to do so with enough personnel so to prevent injuries and safely position the ladder.  After the ladder is in place, the halyard must be secured so not to impede the climber.


When using ladders to rescue people, they need to be assured that help is on the way and that they should not attempt to either touch or climb down the ladder until the rescuing firefighters have scaled the ladder to provide assistance.


Always be alert to and aware of overhead wires and exercise extreme caution when raising and lowering portable ladders.


Firefighters should position ladders upwind when venting and breaking windows from outside.  Portable ladders can used to break windows for the purpose of ventilation or rescue by raising the ladder to the height of the window and then dropping it against the windowpanes.  When using a ladder to vent, it is important to raise it to a height equal to the top third of window in order to minimize glass shards traveling down the rails.


Extension ladders should never be positioned upside down, as this can cause the ladder to slip, and the lock assemblies cannot function properly.


The ladder must be set on a firm foundation.  Before climbing, check for stability and ensure that the ladder does not wobble.  When operating on uneven ground, use a wedge to stabilize ground ladders.


Ladders should never be ascended when placed against windowpanes, sashes, loose boxes, barrels, or other surfaces that may break or collapse.


Always face the ladder when ascending or descending.


Do not climb higher than the third rung from the top of either a straight or extension ladder.


Resist the temptation to overreach.  It is better to get down and move the ladder.


When using high ladders, it is advisable to securely lash or otherwise fasten the top of the ladder to prevent slippage, when and where possible.


The hooks on roof ladders should be checked periodically to ensure that the bolts are secured on the hooks or that the hooks have not been bent or otherwise deformed.


Both metal and wooden ladders (under certain conditions) can conduct electricity.


When placing a metal ladder against a building with aluminum siding, release the ladder before contact is made with the building.  There have been occasions where aluminum siding was energized due to faulty electrical service damaged by fire conditions.  Firefighters should avoid becoming a part of the electrical circuit and receiving an electric shock.


After a portable ladder is utilized it will be returned to the apparatus exactly how and where it was prior to being removed.  Personnel shall ensure that the ladder bed lock is secured when a portable ladder is returned to the apparatus.


No portable ground ladder shall ever be removed or relocated from outside the fire building unless all interior operations have been terminated and the Incident Commander has confirmed that all emergency responders and victims are present and accounted for.